PERIODS are completely natural and for most women – they happen once a month.

While some people might not have a regular cycle, others are plagued by heavy periods.

GettyPeriods are unique to each person – but having an idea of what’s normal and what’s not can be helpful[/caption]

Whether you use a period cup, tampons, or towels, your period is unique to you.

Dr Shree Datta, health advisor for INTIMINA explained that the menstrual cycle has four different phases.

She explained that for most women it’s difficult to pinpoint when exact changes will occur, as this can vary from month to month and person to person – in the same way as our periods differ.

“Remember, no one factor alone influences your menstrual cycle or indeed your mood, appetite or exercise performance, which is why it’s so important to track your sleep, diet and fitness throughout your cycle.

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“Also note any key stress factors – such as a deadline at work, exams, moving house etc. as these can also impact your periods, diet, sleep and exercise performance.

“Tracking your cycle can allow you to recognise specific patterns at specific times of your cycle which are individual to you.”

How long does a period last?

A typical period lasts for anything from two to eight days.

Sometimes, or for some women, cramps or mood changes associated with your period can start before the bleeding does.

A period where the bleeding lasts for longer than eight days is called menorrhagia, and this is generally diagnosed in five per cent of women.

Menorrhagia also refers to very heavy periods, like soaking through a tampon and a pad in a couple of hours or less.

This can be very draining and may result in iron deficiency, so it’s important to check that out.

What counts as the last day of your period?

The last day of your period is when you have stopped bleeding.

For most women, this is around day five.

The bleeding will likely be heaviest at first, maybe for a couple of days, then become lighter as you approach the end of your period.

Sometimes you might think it has finished, but then get a bit of spotting – that’s okay and totally normal.

What does a heavy period mean and what causes it?

On average, the amount of blood lost during a period is roughly less than 80ml, Dr Shree Datta explained.

Heavy periods can and affect people’s overall health and lifestyle so can be beneficial and is important to monitor.

Signs to watch for include:

Periods lasting longer than 7 days 
Using two forms of sanitary products together and having to change every 1-2 hours
Bleeding through clothes and bedding 
Passing blood clots larger than a 10p coin

There are many causes for heavy periods including medical problems such as polyps, fibroids in the womb, PSCOS and thyroid disorder or blood clotting disorders, which are all things your gynaecologist would investigate.

What can affect how long your period lasts?

The length of your period can be affected by a number of things, such as your age, your weight, or how close you are to adolescence, pregnancy, or menopause.

The length of your period can also differ based on any health conditions, such as uterine or blood conditions, and the medication you take for these illnesses.

Your hormonal system, or any hormonal preparations you take for your period, can also impact how long it lasts for.

What causes long periods?

There are quite a few reasons why periods can be long, and they are often nothing to worry about – but you should see a doctor if they are lasting for more than eight days.

Many hormonal preparations routinely taken by women can give long periods for a while, as they settle into them.

For example, birth control pills, vaginal rings, patches, or IUDs can result in very long periods in the first few months.

Young women, usually in the first three years after starting their periods, can have very long periods.

This usually settles down as your cycle becomes more regular.

Women approaching or going through menopause may also experience long periods.

Remember, it’s normal for up to 25 per cent of women to have irregular cycles, with unpredictable, long, or short, periods, all through their menstrual life.

It’s only important to see a doctor if you routinely have less than 21 or more than 35 days between your periods.

Also see a doctor if your periods are more than eight days, or if they are so heavy you are soaking through tampons and pads within a couple of hours.

Long periods can be a sign of unusual hormonal levels in health conditions like polycystic ovaries or conditions like hypothyroidism.

Polyps, fibroids or adenomyosis can also cause long periods.

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So can uterine or cervical cancer, or haemophilia, Von Willebrand’s Disease or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

If you regularly take aspirin, blood thinners, or anti-inflammatory medication you may experience long periods.

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